She Did It (So Why Can’t I?): Emily Giffin (the Lawyer/Chick Lit Novelist)

Hola!! So, I know I’ve been blogging about other people a lot lately rather than my own endeavors.  It’s not that I don’t have some experiences that I want to reflect upon, I do.  But the summer is apparently book-tour season, especially for anything that might be read on the beach and the reality is if Emily Giffin (a lawyer who wrote 6 beach reads) is in town, I can’t not write about her you know?

So yeah, Emily Giffin was in DC and Bethesda on Monday promoting her new book “Where We Belong.”  Of course her lawyer background makes her particularly intriguing to me, as she graduated from UVA law school and worked at Winston & Strawn in New York before knocking out “Something Borrowed.”  Although Emily had quit her job and moved to London before she wrote that extremely successful novel turned movie, she did actually write a complete manuscript while working at a law firm.  At the firm, she completed a young adult book, which means I can honestly ask the question: she did it (i.e., write a novel while simultaneously being a professional), so why can’t I?    Unfortunately, that particular work was rejected by eight publishers so she gave it up.  However, maybe it’s for the best because then she started writing about adults, producing a story about a lawyer–obviously one of the best consequences of Giffin’s background in the law.  Emily Giffin has actually managed to publish a chick lit (yes, straight up chick lit, not Lady Lit, but I’m not the one who thinks that’s a bad thing, others do!) novel starring a woman who was not a fashion writer, but an actual lawyer!  The protagonist wasn’t Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice trying to save a community center either, she was a lawyer at a firm!  One thing I know for sure is that you don’t see many books with pink covers about law firm lawyers.

Anyway, so I was really excited about the Giffin book signing.  I’ve actually read all five of her previous novels.  (“Something Borrowed”  was my favorite, then “Love the One You’re With” and “Baby Proof,” and you can read about them all here).  My friend and I were already late to the signing, so we decided to get a drink at the café.  The place was packed, but somehow Emily Giffin ended up being, literally, right next to us preparing for her talk (I don’t know how this stuff happens).  She was an inch away, we could hear her whole conversation and everything, and I was just looking at her (without a book because I hadn’t bought yet) thinking, “should I bother her? Is she trying to get in the zone before her speech?” While I was busy doing that, some girl walked up to her and Emily proceeded to sign her book, take a picture with her and give her a hug before marching to the front of the room and giving her presentation.  After that it was a wrap, and I was officially at the end of a 3 hour line, opportunity missed.  The line was so long that (no joke) my friend and I left, got dinner, had a long deep conversation and came back only to find at least an hour-long wait.  I ended up leaving, which is why I have no me + famous author pic to share. 😦

As for the talk itself, it was short but worthwhile.  She discussed the latest novel, of course, about a girl who was adopted and the mother who gave up her child for adoption (two points of view).  (Side note: the premise actually reminded me of a decent movie with Kerry Washington and Naomi Watts called Mother and Child). From what I gather, it speaks a lot about identity issues.  Rather than read from the book, Emily recited letters from two fans who had read the novel and identified with the struggle of figuring out “where they belonged.”  That part was actually very inspiring to me.  It reminded me of the ultimate purpose behind this novel dream, which I think involves having impact on women’s lives.  Like I’ve said, I am drawn by this idea about being young and “lost,” and from those letters, it really sounds like Giffin was able to touch some “lost” people with this latest work.  I think it’s a wonderful accomplishment to have shown some girl out that her crazy confused feelings simply are not unique to her.  That definitely made me smile.  🙂  Til next time, ciao!

A Writer Writes: Jennifer Weiner Wisdom

I love Jennifer Weiner.  Her books are good, but really, I just love her.  After reading a couple of her Lady Lit novels “Good in Bed,” “In Her Shoes,” among others, I browsed her website to see how she got her start and if I could extract some wisdom from her experience.  To my surprise, Weiner posted an extensive essay targeted directly at me!  Well, at aspiring novelists (other authors don’t have nearly as much advice on their sites).  Parts of it really spoke to me, which is why I love her now.  Specifically, she lists 10 steps (updated to 12 steps on her blog) one must take to get published (in reality, it’s 12 she took to get her published, but isn’t all advice basically a summary of one’s personal experiences?).  My favorite step is number 4: “Get a Job (not an MFA).” (An MFA, my lawyer friends, is a Master in Fine Arts.  If you want to master in creative writing, that’s the degree you would get.) Those years are better spent studying life rather than noveling. Beyond that, (and this is the part I liked), an MFA isn’t necessary because regardless of what job you have, a writer writes.

Side note: the other day, I edited a legal brief for my friend and crossed out all the block quotes because I hate block quotes.  Nevertheless, that’s not stopping me from using one in this blog.  I’m breaking my own rule because in explaining the statement “a writer writes,” Weiner said some things that reaffirmed to myself that I am truly a writer.  Those things (almost completely) are below, block-quote style:

If you’re going to be a writer, nothing can stop you.  You’ll write poems, you’ll write stories, you’ll begin a novel that will forever languish in a shoebox beneath your bed, but you will write.  You’ll do it in your spare minutes, you’ll snatch time before work or eschew prime-time TV after.  You’ll do it because it’s your passion and your calling, because doing it makes you happier than almost anything else, because, really, you don’t have any choice… – J. Weiner (The complete quote is on her blog here).

There are other reasons why I love Jennifer Weiner, but I’ll save those for another day.  For now, I’ll share with you her 12 steps to getting  novel published (some are depressing, but they her steps, not mine!).  She discusses each step in depth here.

Jennifer Weiner’s 12 Step Program to Getting Published:

  1. Have an Unhappy Childhood
  2. Have a Miserable Love Life
  3. Major in Liberal Arts (but not necessarily creative writing)
  4. Get a Job (not an MFA)
  5. Write the Story Only You Can Write
  6. Get a Dog
  7. Get Published
  8. Find an Agent
  9. Be a Smart Consumer
  10. Self-Publish?
  11. Use Social Media
  12. Read

I certainly agree with some of these, but not all.  What do others think??

UPDATE: Omg, Jennifer Weiner re-tweeted my blog post!!! Now I love her even more!!!  (Of course I tweeted “a writer writeRs” instead of a “writer writes,” but she tweeted me anyway!)

Relationships as a Spiritual Journey: The Motivation Behind My Future Lady Lit Novel

I’ve said from the beginning that I wanted to write a “chick lit” novel, but then I changed that to “lady lit,” because of the negative connotation of the former phrase.  Chick lit, flicks and tv clicks 🙂 are not intellectual enough for the professional crowd, I guess.  Nevertheless, I’m unapologetically pursuing a Lady Lit novel because my instincts have always told me that writing something geared toward young women was not only a worthwhile task, but a valuable one.  Recently, I’ve been able to articulate why: relationships are spiritual.

Let me explain.  Lady lit often focuses on relationships, and is dismissed by many for that reason.  However, I argue that that rejection is a grave mistake because women (I really can’t speak for men) experience some of their earliest and most profound periods of growth from their relationships.  That growth, I believe, is better described as an individual spiritual journey due to the following:

1. Relationships introduce women to extreme and deep emotions such as ridiculous, drug-like happiness and soul shattering grief.

2. They force women to sincerely look at themselves through another person’s eyes, internalize how they are perceived by others, and face the questions “what aspects of my personality make me who I am?” and “what qualities are holding me back?” and

3. All the compromise and vulnerability required to make relationships work compel women to figure out the things in their lives that are most important.

Does that sound like fluff to you? Or something worth intellectual and artistic exploration?My point is that while dating and stuff can be funny and light, relationships are actually pretty deep.  And when a girl is lost and looking for…something—guidance, assistance, sympathy, hope, etc.—I believe that lady lit, chick flicks and all that girl stuff is often the answer.  It has been for me in the past, so it must have been for others as well.  Thus, if I can tell a story that gives a girl some clarity or makes her feel better about life, I should do it. That’s a big if, true, but it’s worth a try….

P.S. In my “research” for this blog post, I came across an article by my friend and former Crimson colleague Hana about Why Smart Women Like Chick Lit.  She makes a different argument, but it’s worth a read!